We’ve done a few “new” car reviews over the years on DT and I’ve been struggling to find a regular feature for the Tuesday 10:30am PST spot…so welcome to New Car Tuesday. The thing I don’t want to do is just parrot the opinions of other folks around the web, so my promise is that any new car review will be based on an experience driving a new car. These won’t be press cars (ha!), so they will be cars driven at the dealer lot or from friends. First up, is the 2015 Mini Cooper S hardtop starting at $24,100 available at your local Mini dealer.
The first thing you’ll read on every car review of the third generation (2014+) Mini Cooper is that the car is bigger in every dimension, but that isn’t important and 99% of buyers won’t begrudge another 98mm in length. What you do get is a budget driving experience from BMW’s Mini division in a “cute” styled package.
Of course you’ll want to ask how it drives, but first you’ve got to check out those instruments. The giant analog speedometer and small peek-a-boo tach on the side, and mini info display are all very functional, but the strange after thought gas gauge (it has 8 amber lights that show fuel level) is totally out of place.
Depress the clutch (wow, that is a long pedal throw) and hit the start button, and the 2.0 liter turbocharged direct injected inline-4 comes to life without fuss. The shifter is easy and direct, but the pedal travel and clutch engagement point on my friends 2015 Cooper S was frustratingly awkward. Perhaps after a few thousand miles it will get better, but in the meantime the first 3-4 inches of pedal travel felt like I was pushing some helper springs out of the way before finally engaging the clutch hydraulics near the cabin floor.
Clutch awkwardness aside, the driving experience is really good. The engine may only push 189 horsepower to the front wheels, but a 2700 lb curb weight (and properly short gearing of the 6-speed manual) means it feels like more. The steering is light but communicative and while I didn’t have a chance to take it to a race track and complain about understeer like any real automotive journalist, it felt sporty and fun on the street. The playful attitude isn’t just the wacky graphics packages available on the outside, but a combination of stiff ride, eager torque, and growling exhaust note turns into many smiles per mile.
Image credits: BMWgroup. What other new car deserves a DT style review? Send your suggestions here: firstname.lastname@example.org